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Why You Should See A Movie About Alzheimer’s

The new film 'What They Had' and others help us confront dementia and the toll it takes.

Sometimes you go to the movies to escape reality, other times, to find solidarity and support for the challenges you face. If you’re feeling in the latter camp and are contending with Alzheimer’s (which impacts so many of us, given the statistic that a new case develops every 65 seconds), there are films to help you through.

While these movies may be difficult to watch, they also help those of us who are grappling with the impact of Alzheimer’s.

The recently released What They Had, a funny, moving work that currently has an immaculate 100 percent positive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is the most-recent film to tackle this topic. It follows grown siblings (Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon) trying to help their father (Robert Forster) decide how to care for their mom (Blythe Danner), who has Alzheimer’s and recently wandered off in a snowstorm. Fantastic performances from a stellar cast and the gentle tone make this a winner.

Hollywood Comfort

If you want to rent an older but amazing film, Still Alice, from 2014, stars Julianne Moore in a wrenching performance as a brilliant university professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Based on Lisa Genova’s best-seller, the film chronicles her decline and coming to grips with what is happening. It’s a hard one for many of us to watch—but if you need a memorable portrayal of lives upended by the disease, not to mention a good cry, this could be the ticket.

Another engrossing film, Away from Her (2006), stars Julie Christie as a woman confronting Alzheimer’s who decides to move into assisted living, apart from her husband (Gordon Pinsent) of 45 years. There, she bonds deeply with another patient, as her husband, feeling bereft, tries to find companionship again, too. Based on an Alice Munro short story and directed by Sarah Polley, it’s a gripping film that has you thinking long and hard about the best outcome in this situation.

While these movies may be difficult to watch, they also help those of us who are grappling with the impact of Alzheimer’s. They lead us to recognize that we are not alone and gain some fresh perspective—two powerful reasons to tune in.

By Janet Siroto


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